In the first week of November, the Native American Cultural Programs (NACP) announced its intention to become a full-fledged cultural center. With the announcement of the President’s Council on Race and Diversity and the search for the university’s Chief Diversity Officer, the cultural centers on campus and the spaces they provide for students are more important than ever. The University of Connecticut houses five cultural centers on the fourth floor of the Student Union, offering resources to a wide array of students, but the NACP community is not one of them. The resource for Indigenous students operates as a cultural organization, a second-class cultural resource compared to the brick-and-mortar cultural centers. Support from other organizations and students on campus has helped facilitate a campus-wide conversation about the importance of expanding the available resources to students of Native American heritage.
“NACP is a growing organization on campus with limited resources,” the NACP’s Instagram post from Nov. 4 says. The caption and post provides a QR code and link to a petition for people to sign in support of the NACP cultural center expansion. “While cultural centers are given spacious areas to provide a comfortable, inclusive environment, the NACP is operating out of a closet-like space with only three part-time staff members.”
The post seeks support from the greater UConn community so the organization’s goal can be fully realized.
“With your support, we aim to become a fully recognized cultural center with a director and full-time staff,” the post says. “We appreciate any and all support towards our cause and hope the results allow us to grow…Please share with your organizations, faculty, and friends!”
The NACP’s small size and visibility on campus puts Indigenous students who should have access to their programs at a disadvantage, which the petition further discusses.
“Many of the Indigenous students on campus are unaware of the NACP due to its current lack of visibility on campus,” the description on the petition says. “Due to a severe lack of funding, the NACP is…unfairly challenged when it comes to executing their mission.”
In an email correspondence, the NACP discussed more about where the petition originated from and why the expansion is necessary.
“In the past, there were discussions about expanding NACP,” they said. “However, this year one of our students, Sage Phillips, started discussions again with different partners within UConn. We are hoping that the petition will bring awareness to the current state of NACP and the different issues that the Native and Indigenous communities face.”
As stated in their email, the organization serves to fulfill three core objectives, which include engaging and educating UConn students about Native American issues and culture through university programs and activities. They also seek to “provide support, advocacy and resources to both Native American students and students interested in the Native American culture through partnerships with UConn faculty, staff, and cultural centers, as well as with the local community and local tribes.” Their third objective as an organization is to “increase the visibility of Native Americans by promoting awareness, understanding, and appreciation of Native American culture and traditions at UConn.”
“The centers foster a sense of cultural identity, encourage student leadership, facilitate critical reflection, and stimulate informed action and social justice advocacy,” the NACP said. Becoming an administrative cultural space offers the space and resources for the NACP to fully achieve their mentioned objectives as well as these important aspects of the centers.
The petition and the community’s intention to expand has been well-received by peers, and the NACP hopes to continue fostering relationships with student organizations for mutual support on campus.
“We have been very lucky to have received support from our Cultural Center allies, including the Rainbow Center and PRLACC,” the NACP said. They also acknowledge the Rainbow Center for its Native American Heritage Month board. “We hope to continue to coalition build with various centers and student organizations on campus, while helping facilitate a campus-wide conversation on the issues at hand.”
As for future plans for the possible expansion, the NACP hopes to bring the petition to administration to make actual change.
“We hope to connect to the petition with various decision making bodies on campus,” the NACP said. “This includes the Senate Executive Committee, University Senate’s Diversity Committee, and the President’s Council on Race and Diversity. In connecting the voices of students with these bodies, we hope to facilitate a conversation on how the institution can better support NACP and Native students on campus.”
The petition has received 364 signatures but can always use more, and the NACP appreciates support offered in any way. You can continue to support them this Native American Heritage month and throughout the year by attending their events, like the “Two Spirits Identities” lecture next Thursday. Be sure to visit them in SU 416B, check out their Instagram @uconn_nacp or contact them through their email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of @uconn_nacp Instagram.
Hollie Lao is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.